Engaging Politics
Friday, October 23, 2009

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“If My people would listen to Me and if [they ] would follow My ways, how quickly would I subdue their enemies.”  (Ps. 81:13)

                A few years ago the evangelical community was shocked when two icons of the evangelical movement went in head to head conflict of the role of Christians in politics.  Dr. James Dobson of Focus on the Family fame has been a long standing advocate of political involvement of people to make changes for the Kingdom and for families living in a war torn world.  On the other hand, long respected evangelical columnist Cal Thomas, began to be disturbed by the radical involvement of some leaders into the political arena.  He teamed with Ed Dobson (no kin to James Dobson) to write a book called, Blinded by Might.  Both Thomas and J. Dobson have done so much to advance the cause of Christ in the world, it became difficult for followers to choose sides.  Yet, their conflict raises the very legitimate question of what is the proper role of Christians in politics.

 

                Followers of the Book of Isaiah and other prophetic writings must say that God’s people were engaged in voicing dissent when the government would stray from God’s moorings.  Yet, we find Jesus was ambivalent at best concerning the politics of His day.  On taxes, He said if Caesar minted the money, then let Caesar have it. (Note the Christian outcry against taxes today.)  He stood before Rome and literally gave Pilate the authority to crucify Him.  Jesus simply was not engaged in governmental affairs.  And then think about Paul.  He served Christ when Nero was Emperor of Rome.  Nero was a homosexual, murdering, baby killing, Christian persecuting, evil power monger, who eventually had Paul executed.  And there is not one word in all of Paul’s writing against Nero or Rome.  In fact the only thing he writes about is in Romans 13 and he commands us to follow the government.  The New Testament as a whole is deafly silent about engaging in the political process.

 

                I think the reason is quite clear.  Politics deals with the surface.  It demands laws that either engage in peoples’ lives (traffic laws, criminal laws, civil laws, etc.) or disengage in peoples’ lives (deregulation, Bill of Rights, etc.)  But politics can only deal with surface issues.  It cannot deal with the heart.  And because it cannot deal with the heart, politics can never deal with the heart of problems.  What Christ came to teach was that radical change in the human condition could only come from heart surgery of the people.  He said, “True the law says not to murder, but as long as you allow anger and bitterness to linger in your hearts, murder will happen.”  And, “True, the law says not to commit adultery, but as long as you let your heart lust after someone who is not your spouse, adultery and the consequences of adultery will happen.”  And no matter how many laws you write about murder and sexual morality, if your hearts are not turned to God, then those things will be a part of your culture.

                 So to have good laws, good politics, and good politicians the process begins with hearts that are vested in Christ.  But some will argue, “What about now?”  Must we not stop legislation and political movements which might harden men’s hearts?  Isn’t it essential to protect life and uphold valuable moral principles?  And my answer is absolutely.  We must be voices that are heard as clearly and distinctively as Isaiah’s.  But in doing so, we must make sure our voices are not tainted by personal agenda, selfish motives, or unwarranted emotionalism.  Paul said, “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.” (2 Tim. 2:15)  And Ephesians 4:13 he writes, “Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ.”  You see, for Paul, politics were important only as they would bring glory to Christ.   

            So let me summarize my position on Christians engaging the political process.  First of all, the problems of culture are not political.  The problems rest in hearts that are turned away from God.  So I believe the Church and Christians burn too much energy engaging in the superficial.  But the prophets do indeed lay groundwork for political engagement.  So when we do engage in the process, we must do so only for the glory of God and the way we engage must be God honoring.  And finally, we must remember that Christ will return riding neither elephant nor donkey.  He will return on a dazzling white horse which knows no politics.  For the here and now, the words of the psalmist ring loud, “If My people would listen to Me and follow My ways, I will subdue their enemies.”  I fear that our zeal for engaging politics is our way of saying “God, You are not doing Your job, so I must help.”  And God says, turn your heart over to Me and I will do My job.”


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